The Department of Health recently warned against a possible outbreak of gastrointestinal, and food and waterborne diseases, amid the threat of El Niño and a water shortage, as according to DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire, “if there is a water crisis, sources of safe water will not be enough.”
“This will start epidemics of gastrointestinal problems like cholera, typhoid fever, as well as food and waterborne diseases like bloody diarrhea and hepatitis,” she added. “If you are not sure whether your source of [drinking] water is safe, boil the water first before drinking it, to be sure.”
There is also a high possibility that these illnesses will rapidly spread through communities because of the looming El Niño phenomenon, which Vergeire attributes to climate change. “Climate change is a very critical [issue]… If our environment will be affected by changes in our climate, definitely there will be an [outbreak] of illnesses,” she added.
She also reminded school cafeterias to observe proper food preparation and to choose dishes which do not easily spoil. Teachers should also ensure sufficient ventilation in classrooms and impose water breaks so students can rehydrate.
With parts of the country experiencing “above-normal” increases in the heat index since the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration officially declared the start of the dry season, Vergeire also reminded the public to watch out for symptoms of heatstroke or heat stress.
In heat stress, a person may just feel dizzy or nauseous. Heatstroke, on the other hand, affects multiple organs and causes life threatening symptoms such as palpitations, difficulty in breathing, and fainting.
The hot and dry season will be affecting the country for a few more months, especially with an expected El Niño, and the extreme heat and accompanying water shortages will be uncomfortable for almost all of us, sometimes to the point of becoming dangerous. We all have to keep that in mind as we go about our daily activities, ensuring that our food and water is safe for consumption, and using clothing and protecting ourselves from the intense heat, especially during midday.
Although Filipinos are already used to the challenges that come with the dry season, let us still keep these warnings in mind as we go about our day, especially when it comes to children and the elderly, who have a tendency to be more vulnerable.*